If I Get to Choose Only 1 Away Rotation, How Do I Pick?

Amiethab Aiyer, MD | Jonathan Kaplan, MD | Matthew Varacallo, MD

March 2, 2021


As rising fourth years start to get themselves ready for the next application cycle, a key consideration is that most will only be able to complete one away rotation. Given the recommendations from the medical student advising arm of the Council for Physician Accountability (COPA), students may be wondering how exactly to select the best program to do an away rotation. Below we share 6 keys to help make the decision:

1What Factors are Most Important to You?

This can include location, culture of the program (inclusive of mentorship), diversity of the residents and faculty, clinical experience, research resources, fellowship matches, etc. This is not a complete list by any means, but it may be simpler to pick 3-5 factors that are most important to you

2Location, Location, Location!

Think about the locations that you are most interested in; select 3-5 locations in the country you most desire and identify 5 programs in those areas that pique your interest. This will give you a list of programs that ranges from 15-25

3Cross Reference

Start cross referencing programs with those factors that are identified in #1; talk with residents and faculty at your home program to gauge how these programs from #2 are aligned with those factors that are important to you. If you don’t have a home program (or want to find out more info), reach out to social media pages for the program. Alternatively, you can reach out to residency coordinators to identify if there is a resident liaison. Review the program websites to garner additional information; many will have been updated given the largely virtual nature of the most recent cycle.

4Narrow it Down

Start narrowing the list down; use the above strategies to narrow the programs down from 15-25 to 5-10. Think critically about the program style that you can thrive in, that you think will help your career aspirations best. One caveat: don’t plan to do a rotation simply to obtain a letter of recommendation. If you really want to explore if a program is the right fit for you, then a rotation is ideal.

5External Review

Review your application in the context of these programs; talk with faculty/resident advisors or mentors about the strength of your application relative to the competitiveness of the programs that you are interested in. If you cannot get someone at your program to evaluate the strength of your application, reach out to OrthoMentor or other resources outside your institution.

6Final Three

Narrow your list to your final 3 programs; submit 3 apps for every one rotation you plan on doing. Considering the challenge of scheduling across various schools, it’s a good idea to have back up options available.

Best of luck!


DISCLOSURES: Dr. Aiyer American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: Board or committee member, Delee & Drez Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support, Medline: Paid consultant, Medshape: Paid consultant, Miller’s Review of Orthopaedics (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support Dr. Kaplan Medline: Paid consultant, Wright Medical Technology, Inc.: Paid consultant Dr. Varacallo This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.


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